Russia, Save the Amur Tiger!

Feature story - 26 September, 2008
September 26, 2008. Moscow. Today, on the eve of the Tiger Day that will be celebrated on September 28, 58 NGO representatives from 26 countries address the Russian authorities and UN structures with the demand to create urgently the Federal specially protected area in the Bikin River basin (Primorsky Kray) - a place of habitat of the Amur tiger. Upper and middle parts of the Bikin River valley are home to over 10% of the Far Eastern population of this great cat. The clear-cuttings, mining and other activities that inevitably result in the degradation of valuable natural resources are nevertheless not forbidden there. In last years there have been numerous efforts to acquire permission to clear-cut local woods or launch other industrial projects in this area.

Bikin River valley

The Bikin River basin has a worldwide scientific and aesthetic significance. It is the key area for preservation of a whole range of ecosystems. It is here that the primary breeding grounds of the Amur tiger are situated. As it is known at least 95% of Amur tigers live in Russia and only a few individuals preserved in wild in China.   

Besides the tiger the Bikin Basin region is also a habitat of other rare and endangered plant and animal species: hooded and Japanese crane, scaly-sided merganser, fish owl, ginseng, Fori rhododendron etc. In total, the IUCN Global Red List contains 2 plant and 16 animal species from this area, while the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation contains 22 plant and 32 animal species accordingly.  

Upper and middle parts of Bikin Basin represent the last remaining conglomerate of unique natural landscapes of the Central Sikhote-Alin (primary mixed coniferous - deciduous forest). It have never endured any significant human activity and, in fact, is the only remaining large uninterrupted massif of the Ussuri taiga.

There are only two high conservation value areas in the world that match the Bikin in size and are located in the same latitude; the National 'Olympic' Park in the United States and 'Gross Morn', in Canada, but these two areas preserve different sets of ecosystems. There is no other place on the planet where such mixed coniferous - deciduous forest can be found.

The main peculiarity of this area is the surprising co-existence of southern and northern species of plants and animals, which is a rare phenomenon in the world. For example, the Bikin River is full of Siberian whitefish and Amur asp, lenok and taimen while it is also possible to encounter tropical fish - mudfish and the rare suppon. Here the unique Ayan spruce, that lives as long as 500 years, grows alongside the rare orchid, Japanese snakemouth.

Preservation of the Bikin taiga is especially important for supporting the traditional way of life of the Udege people - a small population of indigenous people in the Russian Federation. The Udege people living in the Bikin area have shown their support for the idea of establishing a specially protected natural area at the federal level.

The idea to include the 'Verkhnebikinsky' Game Preserve and the traditional nature management territory of 'Bikin' into the World Heritage Site 'Central Sikhote-Alin' was among the topics for discussion at the 25th Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2001. The Committee officially acknowledged that these areas fully comply with the criteria set out for World Heritage properties but existing protective regime can not secure its safety.

Authors of the letters apply to the authorities of the country: «We ask you to use your authority and urgently create a federal protected area for the Bikin Basin to ensure the preservation of one of the very few remaining key habitats of the Amur tigers and of the globally renowned unique nature therein".

For additional information please call: +7 (495) 988-74-60, Andrey Petrov, Mikhail Kreindlin.

Greenpeace Russia has available video and photo materials regarding the above issue.

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